Friday, April 22, 2011

Cheating God with the sun.

This may be a mute issue for some or even most, but the time in Egypt (as in the national clock) needs serious feels out of whack with the rest of the world.

The first call to prayer is about 4 am and the sun comes up at 5 am. Egyptians are nocturnal people so the call to prayer and sunrise is about mid-sleep for them. This doesn't make sense. The sun is up almost 2 hours after we awake and this seems like part of the day is already gone. There will be no day light savings this year...there was day light savings last year; in fact twice to accommodate for the holy month of Ramadan...this seemed like cheating to change the clock so that sunset occurs earlier. Some of my students sleep all day they wake up an hour or two before sunset...this is definitely trying to pull one over on Allah. Hey, the rules say "nothing can touch the mouth during the sun light hours" so technically they are fasting while sleeping. 

I'm sure several Muslims would move south of the equator during Ramadan if they could.  

Where are the cats?

This is a trick question as we are no longer in Egypt. It is Samana Santa (Holy Week) and we weighed our options.
A) Stay in Alex at school and save a couple of bucks.
B) Rent villa on the North Coast and spend a couple of bucks.
C) Fly to Abu Dhabi to see a friend and explore a new city and spend quite a few bucks.
D) Go to where there are no visible cats.

To set the record straight, I don't dislike cats though I find some more amusing than others. Ana on the other hand dislikes anything with fur (except me).

We, meaning I had a spiritual Egyptian crisis last week...maybe the past month or two. I had a meeting with our boss and told him I didn't want to come back to Alex. If you are on the international circuit this is a typical April passage. We chatted for awhile in addition to several conversations with Ana as she tends to be more grounded and less impulsive than me. So I told my friend Mo that we wouldn't be coming to visit her in Abu Dhabi as we didn't know our future. We opted Plan C for some sun in the fun with a group of friends. Well, most of the group dropped out and wanted to head to Siwa Oasis (near the Libyan border); who can blame them-it is a pretty impressive place if you haven't been. Plan A, B, and C failed (truth be told, Plan A was never really an option) and there was only one logical thing to do.

Our 10 Euro lunch from the supermarket.  
To be continued...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bangkok revisited

As fate would have it, another spring break meant another trip to Bangkok, however this time the stakes were a little higher and the pressure was on. I was invited to present a workshop on art education at the NESA conference (Near East South Asia Council of Overseas School). I wasn't in the position to complain considering that the school put us up in five star hotel-at least during the conference. For the first few days the weather was behaving by Thailand standards...a little rain mixed with a cool spell made for a tolerable arrival. Our first leg of our journey would be spent at the Shanghai Mansion Hotel in China Town...a tried true favorite.
The room Shanghai Boutique Hotel rivals most. If you wanted a bowl of live fish in your room from the pond in the atrium, your wish was their command.  
The shower even had a birdcage with stuffed birds. Just a suggestion to all of you looking to remodel your shower. 
We were situated on the fifth floor and the view to the atrium with filled with lamps. See fish pond below.  
 The Shanghai Mansion is stalker friendly-they let everyone know you're a guest. 
After the Shanghai Mansion we were moved to the less impressive Shangri-La, at least we had a view of the Chao Phraya River plus...  
the fruit of the day (with guide to let you know what you're getting yourself into).

Dragon fruit-the breakfast of champions.  
We got into plenty of trouble in Bangkok...from Mexican food to German food to cheap (legit) our main mode of transport was the fast and friendly taxi service. Our diver pictured above collected currency from around the world. 
Nothing adds bling to your taxi ride like an axis of evil Iranian rial.  
This trip we skipped the Buddhist Wats in place of a superficial shopping experience. Did we buy anything...not really. We hit the massive weekend market, Pat Pong (sans the ping pong shows), Khao San Road (backpacker central) along with the River City shopping complex next to the conference hotel.  
River City had a kite exhibit... 
...and art 
I know, your favorite sculpture-googly eye sculpture is soo cutting edge.
Typical but fun. 
At a loss for what to do with all those washers you've collected over the years?   

Proof that I actually presented aka resume builder. 
We had two free days after the conference and we wanted to make the most of it. Koh Chang (Elephant Island) was calling our name. Seven of us rented a van and made our way 7 hours south east toward Russian tourist territory. The above photo was taken at a stop along the way. The store was bilingual and sold Thai Herb-just add vodka and wait one week. This looked vaguely familiar to the Lao wine I consumed last year...the only benefit I remember was waking up with a splitting headache.  
To get to Koh Chang meant taking a 30 minute ferry ride. 
That is our van. 
We booked two night at the Nirvana Resort. Sadly to say Kurt Cobain left the building.  

but we did see dead snakes... 
and monkeys (need a wake-up call? no problem-monkeys on your roof and deck at the break of dawn was one of the perks at Nirvana). Additionally you plenty of water options from the natural water pool, to the salt pool, to the massive bathtub, to the bay, and the ocean. 
Let's not forget to mention the fancy chairs... 
and doors. 
The island was too much so we opted for a day excursion to the rustic Koh Wai (Paradise Island)-a 20 minute speedboat or 50-minute slow boat ride.  
The water at Koh Wai was pristine. Our boat trip included snorkeling gear and barf bags. 
You can rent a hut for a few dollars a night-but your neighbors will most likely be drunken Russians. On the two islands we visited there where signs in Russian stating that any disruptive behavior would result in a $10,000 fine plus deportation, now that is service! 
The dock at Koh Wai we pulled into.

Nope, it wasn't abandoned, the fishing boat was fully operational. 
Artist rendition of your new favorite Thai restaurant. 
Koh Chang had pigs as Scary Carrie demonstrates. Our "resort" was located on the southern end of the island which meant a 45 minute bus ride from hell on windy roads intentionally designed to make you to lose your lunch. The nearest village to our accommodation was Bang Bao; think-village on a long pier. Of course in keeping in Thai fashion a 7-11 was thrown in the mix. 
The Thai culture isn't immune from a pissing Calvin. 
The suburbs of Bang Bao. 
One of the two massage centers at Nirvana Resort. 
We may all look happy on the outside, but our hearts were filled with sadness as we closed our stay at Koh Chang with a farewell meal.